Fun, Friendship and Fitness – Walking Football at Manor Park

Walking football, famed by the Barclay’s Bank walking football advert that was broadcast on television in 2014, is a variant of association football which is aimed at keeping people aged over 55 active through football. Created by John Croot in 2011, it is the game people love and remember but played in a new way. The threat of any pain or discomfort is reduced due to the slower pace and reduced contact, allowing people who have loved the sport all of their lives to once again safely get back to playing, as well as introduce the sport to people who might not have considered it before.

In 2015, Welton businessman Paul Brewer discussed the advert with friends and decided it would be a great idea to set up a walking football session in the village. John Mulhall, who had been active in local football for many years, was also part of these initial discussions and organised the original sessions and has been the club’s treasurer ever since. Welton Imp Walking Football Club was officially born, and Paul is now the club’s Life President and continues to show his support as well as sponsor the club through his business Imp Travel of Lincoln. 

The current Chairman, Tony Gillon, and Secretary, Richard Sheils, work closely to ensure the smooth running of the sessions and guarantee the club runs effectively with the help of other volunteers. Richard explains how the importance of walking football is twofold, “There are the obvious health benefits of getting out and moving but there are also the social benefits. I’m from London and I moved here 7 years ago to be closer to my daughter, I’m retired so I didn’t know anyone, but when I joined Welton Imp I was embraced very quickly. I’ve now got good mates who I socialise with outside of the club so the reduced isolation and increased mental well-being is definitely as important as the physical side.”

The Welton Imp Walking Football club is all about having fun, making friends and enjoying an outdoor activity with over 40 active members now extending well beyond Welton. Welcome to over 55’s of all abilities, the club play occasional friendly games and enter suitable age-related tournaments.

The club welcomes anyone who would like to give walking football a go and provides the opportunity for the members to play at whatever pace they feel comfortable at, and there will always be support between players no matter the skill level. “There are a few of us who played to a high standard” explains Richard, “but there are also very valued members of the club who never got into the school team as a kid, never played youth or Sunday league football and that’s totally fine! I remember in an early game we got a penalty, so I turned around and said to a player ‘here you are, you take it’, and he took the penalty and scored and afterwards he said ‘I have never actually scored a goal in any kind of football in my life!’  – “I’ve always remembered that, it was amazing.”

The Welton Imp Walking Football Club offers a free first session on the 3G pitch at Manor Park on Monday & Thursdays at 10.40am. There is also a Friday game kicking off at 3.00pm for anyone looking for a gentle introduction to walking football at a slower pace.

The club often retire to the Welton Sports & Social Club for post-game socialising and use the facility for their social events, meaning if you didn’t get a chance to chat to other members during the session, there is plenty of scope to grab a coffee or beer afterwards.

Being part of the community is important for the club, and one of the annual events is the Charity Shield event which aims to raise funds for local good causes. Beneficiaries in recent years include MIND and Matt’s Fund, with the money raised from this year’s event going to the St Francis Special School in Lincoln.

No matter how old you are or how little experience you have, you are welcome at this club. 

“At the end of last year, we presented trophies to 4 of our members who were still playing at over 80 years of age!” Richard explains. “We also play 3 touch football, meaning you’ve got to pass it to your teammates which makes the game inclusive as well as stopping players dribbling with the ball and inviting contact, so you won’t be left out!” 

As an FA affiliated club, they aim to offer a well organised but informal, safe environment to enjoy the game. There is no membership fee, just pay and play at £2 a game.

For more information, please contact Richard by emailing richcyclo@aol.co.uk or just pop down to a session.

Photo Credit: Jim Blainey